Alumnus Spotlight: Mike Kelleher, M.D. (Class of 1975)

A Friar student-athlete turned pediatrician reflects on the ‘formative influence’ of Fenwick’s teachers and coaches.

By Mark Vruno

In the fall ’21 Friar Reporter (page 16), we reported that alumnus Dr. Tord Alden ’85 was hired into informatics at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital (Chicago) by fellow Fenwick Friar Dr. Michael Kelleher ’75, a pediatrician who spent 17 years at Lurie (Children’s Memorial).

In 2020, Dr. Kelleher became the chief medical officer of Amita Health (Mercy Medical Center, Aurora, IL). For 11 months he chaired the COVID-19 Vaccine Steering Committee, which administered more than 50,000 doses to area health-care workers, first responders and patients.

“I had Roger Finnell for four years,” remembers Dr. Kelleher. “Roger [Fenwick Class of ’59] was a young man when I was at Fenwick. He is a wonderful math teacher and a great human being! I still remember what ‘e to the pi I’ equals.” [Euler’s formula: e^(i pi) = -1]

Kelleher also ran track and cross country for Coach John Polka for four years. “Mr. Polka was my biology teacher, too. These two men had a formative influence over me,” he notes, adding that, in the early 1970s, he was taking “regular and honors classes, which they now call AP [advanced placement], I think.”

Sneezing into med school

Graduating in three years from Northwestern University (Evanston) with a B.A. in biology, Kelleher went on to the University of Minnesota to earn a master’s degree in ecology. His study emphasis was on population genetics and statistics, but severe allergic reactions forced him to change his mind. “I had terrible allergies and couldn’t do the field work,” the doctor recalls.

Kelleher had thought about pursuing medicine in the past, and he received his M.D. in 1986 from the University of Illinois College of Medicine (Urbana and Rockford, IL). His post-graduate training took place at Wyler Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago, where he competed a residency, became chief resident and was a Pediatric Critical Care Fellow (1990-93). He also served for five years on U of C’s faculty.

Before coming home to Chicago, Dr. Kelleher spent five years in Iowa City as the head of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Once at Lurie (Children’s Memorial), he progressed up the ranks, first handling electronic medical record implementation and ascending to chief medical officer from 2003-19.

“My values were formed at Fenwick High School,” Dr. Kelleher insists, citing the service ‘mission’ of Catholic education as being integral to his experience. “There, our teachers inculcated us to provide service to others. They said that it should be a goal in life.” It’s no coincidence, he says, that several of his ’75 Friar classmates also went into the medical field.

Read the Full “Friar Med” Story

Giving Thanks for Fenwick

In November, Friar alumni, faculty, parents and students were asked why they are thankful for Fenwick High School. Here are some responses.

A few current students chimed in, as did a Fenwick parent: “I am thankful for the wisdom and knowledge that is shared at Fenwick … [and] that, even though we may come from different backgrounds, we all share in the love of Christ,” writes Cybelle Miranda, mother of Alejandra ’25 of Chicago. “May God continue to bless us all!”

Senior Rasheed Anderson of Elmhurst believes that “the quality of education is second to none. Fenwick teachers truly care and want students [to] reach their potential. Fenwick is a positive part of my life … and has shaped me into a better man ….” Classmate Pam Martinez ’22, of Berwyn, adds: “Fenwick has challenged me academically … and helped me learn my potential.”

The biggest voices praising their beloved alma mater came from alumni, of course. Here’s what some members of Friar Nation have to say:

“I’m thankful to Fenwick because of lifelong friendships,” writes Dr. Lia Bernardi ’99, assistant OB-GYN professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She is pictured (at left) on a 40th-birthday trip to Mexico with classmates Colleen Ryan, Katie Moore, Lauren Dillon, Rachel Fitzpatrick, Julie Wilkens and Caitlin McKiernan.

Jim Grant ’87 adds: “Fenwick exposed me to a completely different academic, athletic and social world than I had known. Every step challenged me and made me a better student, athlete and person. When I went to college, I truly felt like I had an advantage having been through the rigors of Fenwick and all the lessons I had learned. Nothing in my life, before or after, shaped me as much as my time at Fenwick did.”

Timothy Fitzpatrick ’71 says it’s “very difficult to put what Fenwick did for me into words, as reflecting on the experience brings back so many memories.” Major Fitzpatrick, now retired (U.S. Army) articulated his feelings:

“I would say first that Fenwick welcomed me into an experience of challenge from day one in a very Catholic environment,” he continues. “If you look at the Holy Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit I think that is how we were approached as individuals.  If expressed as Logos, Ethos and Pathos or as the cognitive, physical and spiritual/affective aspects of human dimensions, each was challenged and deliberately developed with great care. 

“In education the classic logic and rhetoric provided a life time foundation in reason and the ability to formulate and express ideas. The emphasis on physical development provided the greater understanding of self and how the physical affected our cognitive ability and our spirit.  The emphasis on math and science further developed reason. Math developed an ability to see the world in more than its surface, but in all dimensions, which saved my and others lives later in my career. 

“Forever thankful for Fr. Aschenbrenner’s German language program and his methods. Going to Germany, Austria and Switzerland was an incredible experience that showed me a world beyond what popular culture portrayed.  The contrast between good and evil experienced at the Berlin Wall between freedom in West Berlin and oppression in communist East Berlin was stark, leading me to make the decision to join the U.S. Army in order to defend freedom.

“Finally, I am thankful for Fenwick’s emphasis on prayer, Mass and Eucharist. This has been of great comfort to me in peace, under duress and at war.”

Alumni and Faculty

Not to be outdone, alumni-turned-faculty members took time out of their hectic schedules to share some thoughts. “Fenwick has always been a prominent part of my life,” writes World Languages Chair and alumna Samantha Carraher ’96. “It all started on the sidelines of a football game when I was about five years old. It was there that I met my dad’s former teacher and a man who would become such a positive influence in my life … My dad told me, ‘You should get to know this man because you will be attending Fenwick some day, and he very well may be your teacher, too.’ And my dad was right.

“I am grateful to Fenwick for going co-ed and giving young women an opportunity to become a part of the experience and the tradition,” Ms. Carraher notes. “I am grateful to the teachers and coaches who always looked out for me and had my best interests at heart, especially … Mr. Arellano, Coach Power and Mrs. Megall. I will forever appreciate the phone call from Mr. Arellano urging me to apply for a position teaching Spanish right after I graduated college. I am now in my 21st year of teaching at Fenwick and can honestly say I love my job. I am grateful to our supportive administration, tremendous colleagues (many of whom are dear friends) and our phenomenal students who make coming to work every day such a wonderful experience. Thank you, Fenwick, for being a place I consider home.”

Learning Resource Coordinator and alumna Grace Lilek David ’08 (at right) can relate. “I’m thankful for a school that I’ve called ‘home’ for the majority of my life!” she says. I’m thankful for our students, who genuinely want the best for those around them. They support one another through the highs and lows, and it’s truly special to witness. And, I’m thankful for my colleagues who work tirelessly to make Fenwick such a wonderful place.”

“I am grateful to be surrounded by colleagues and students who have a passion for learning, a genuine care and concern for one another, and a desire to achieve at the highest level,” says Science Teacher and alumna Brigid Baier Esposito ’96.

Fellow alumni, English Teacher and Head Boys’ Water Polo Coach Kyle Perry ’01 offers a two-word reason as to why he’s thankful for Fenwick: “the pool!”

Tracy Bonaccorsi, Athletics Administrative Assistant and Girls’ Lacrosse Head Coach, concludes: “I’m thankful for Fenwick because I’m blessed to come to work each day and work with three gentlemen that I’m lucky enough to call friends, not just my co-workers. Just like our sports teams here at Fenwick, we make a great team as well in Athletics!”

COMMENT ON THIS BLOG (SEE BELOW) OR EMAIL US TO TELL US WHY YOU ARE THANKFUL FOR FENWICK (communications@fenwickfriars.com).

Once a Friar, Always a Friar

Introduction by Fenwick Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99:

A junior hooper and All-State runner offers a student-athlete reflection.

Junior Bella Daley came to Fenwick High School from St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest. Bella has run cross country and track while playing basketball in the winter. Her hard work and determination showed up in early November when she finished 23rd in state, earning All-State cross-country status!

By Bella Daley ’23 (Oak Park, IL)

‘Once a Friar, always a Friar.’ It’s likely that this motto rings a bell for many of you. As the sixth Daley to attend Fenwick High School, I was very familiar with what it meant to be a Friar even before I walked into the Atrium on my first day of high school. My family and I would pile into our 12-passenger van almost every weekend to watch my siblings represent Fenwick proudly. We traveled to track and cross-country meets, football games, wrestling tournaments and music competitions. I looked forward to the day when I could finally wear a uniform with the Dominican shield.

That day arrived three years ago, and as a current student and athlete at Fenwick, I have learned a lot about what it means to wear a Fenwick uniform in the classroom and on the field, track and court. To be a Friar means that when you walk into school, you are greeted with a smile, a ‘good morning’ and. oftentimes, a ‘put your lanyards on.’ When you leave school, Fr. Peddicord acknowledges you by name because he knows each of the 1,200 students in the school.

Being a member of the Fenwick community has allowed me to strive for excellence both within and outside of the classroom. It was a privilege to represent Fenwick at the IHSA cross country state meet this season. I am extremely thankful for the support that I have received from the Fenwick community who has encouraged me along the way.

I would like to conclude by congratulating all of the fall athletes on tremendous seasons. With two top-three finishes at state, three sectional champions, six regional wins and multiple All-State performances, we have demonstrated that Friars strive for success. I would like to wish the football team the best of luck as they continue with the end of their season. No pressure, but we could really use another day off of school. Thank you! And GO FRIARS!!

Why Athletes Sacrifice

Student-athlete Jordan McAdoo ’22 spoke at Fenwick’s first Fall Sports Recognition Night on November 15, 2021.

Introduction from Fenwick Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99:

As my kids are getting older and almost high-school aged, there are certain Fenwick kids who I get to know and think, ‘Man, I hope my kids turn out like this one.’ Senior Jordan McAdoo is one of those. Jordan’s character, infectious personality, work ethic and team-first mentality are some of his top qualities. Jordan represents all that is great about Fenwick and Fenwick athletics.

By Jordan McAdoo ’22 (Elmhurst, IL)

I’d like to thank Mr. Thies and Ms. Bonaccorsi for inviting me to speak at tonight’s event. We are here to pay tribute to all of the accomplishments and accolades that our athletes have earned throughout the fall season. I have had the pleasure of playing with many of you since freshman year, and I have loved every minute of it.

Being a student-athlete is no easy task. Whether the grueling workouts, staying up late to finish homework assignments and studying for tests, or spending countless hours during the summer training to perfect our games, I think we can all agree that being an athlete at Fenwick can sometimes feel like a chore. So, I often ask myself, ‘Why do I continue to play?’

Like many of you, I play because I love the challenge of pushing myself to get better. The sense of accomplishment when I make a good play or overcome an obstacle; the feeling I get when my teammates, my brothers, push me to go harder and motivate me to keep going, is second to none. Knowing that each of our small steps becomes a giant leap toward our goal of playing smarter, faster and harder to get the win. The commitment to your game, the desire to win, and believing that your hard work and dedication will help you to achieve your goals is what makes the student athlete special.

Green Bay Packers’ coaching legend Vince Lombardi.

Vince Lombardi once said that perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. I challenge you all to keep chasing perfection because I know that with the lessons you have learned while here at Fenwick — commitment, teamwork, respect, honesty and gratitude — you will surely have success wherever you go in life. I am proud to call you all my family and commend you on the recognition you are receiving tonight. Not just because you won your game but because I know the effort and mental toughness it took to get that win. The same great man I spoke of earlier also said that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

Keep working, Friars, and the victories will come. Thank you.

Football State Champs!

Fenwick won its 1st ever football state championship in DeKalb, IL, on Saturday.

Fenwick Head Football Coach Matt Battaglia (from left), All-State center Jimmy Liston, edge rusher Suleiman Abuaqel, All-State QB Kaden Cobb, All-State (Honorable Mention) WR Max Reese and RB/game MVP Danny Kent pose with their state-championship hardware after dominating in the big game on Nov. 27th.

The Friars (12-2) beat Kankakee 34-15 on Saturday at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb to claim the Illinois Class 5A State Championship! Our talented boys dominated, jumping out to an early, 28-0 lead in the first half and never looked back. It was a total team win highlighted by stellar catches (Bryan Hunt, Jr., Eian Pugh and Max Reese), spectacular throws and runs (QB Kaden Cobb), hard-nosed blocking (Jimmy Liston, Rasheed Anderson, Will Rosenberg, Pat Durkin, Aaron Johnson, Lukas Mikuzis and the rest of the offensive line). Defensively, the Paris twins (Conor and Martin) stood out, as usual, as did Suleiman Abuaqel, Den Juette, Mirko Jaksic (junior), Harry Kenny, Conor Stetz (junior), Aden Vargas, Jacque Walls, Quin Wieties, sophomores Luke D’Alise & Will Gladden and freshman Nate Marshall. They executed defensive coordinator Coach Titcus Pettigrew’s game plan to near perfection.

Running back Danny Kent (above) rushed for more than 200 yards on 28 carries and was named Player of the Game. This marks Fenwick’s first state title in football since the IHSA first introduced the playoff system in 1974.

“It has been amazing how I have been fully embraced as a Friar, and I could not be happier to have helped deliver this first-ever football state championship to Fenwick High School and the community,” says Head Coach Matt Battaglia, who joined Fenwick in late 2019. “Special thanks and congratulations to all the players and coaches who made this possible, especially our seniors! Thanks, and Go Friars!

Athletic Director and alumnus Scott Thies ’99 adds: “Congratulations to Coach Battaglia, our student-athletes and all who contributed to Fenwick’s first state championship in football! It was so awesome to see generations of Friars come out in support of this team. We are all super proud!”

Video highlights from the championship game:

READ THE COVERAGE IN THE OAK PARK WEDNESDAY JOURNAL

READ THE COVERAGE IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE/OAK LEAVES

Watch the post-game press conference (above) from DeKalb/NIU.

Friar Boys XC: 2021 Class 2A State Champions

On Saturday in Peoria, the Fenwick Boys’ Cross Country (XC) Team made history by becoming the first Chicago Catholic League high school in history to win a XC state title!

By Mark Vruno

The Fenwick Boys’ Cross Country Team made Illinois High School Association (IHSA) history on November 6. “Ours is the first CCL [Chicago Catholic League] team to ever win a state championship in cross country,” Fenwick Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 proudly reports. “A HUGE congratulations to Head Coach Dave Rill and assistants Gus Coronado, Brixton Rill and Dan Wnek!”

A breakdown of how the Friars ran and placed:

  • Grayden Rill 8th place 15:06.34
  • Nate Mckillop 20th place 15:17.35
  • Dean O’Bryan 33rd place 15:37.33
  • Zac Daley 43rd place 15:44.54
  • Lee O’Bryan 87th place 16:05.68
  • Carl Lukas 123rd place 16:21.04
  • Christian Kline 205th place 17:07.96
Junior All-State XC runner Grayden Rill (Chicago).

Grayden Rill ’23 (Chicago), who has been the team’s steady leader all season, and Nate Mckillop ’24 (Elmhurst, IL) earned All-State honors for their performances. But it was sophomore Dean O’Bryan (La Grange, IL) who really raised some eyebrows this past Saturday in Peoria by running at personal-record pace, beating his own best time by a whopping 40 seconds! “Dean might have won it [the title] for us,” proclaims Head Coach Dave Rill ’87. “He was consistently our sixth-place runner all year, then comes in third [33rd overall] at state!”

Grayden Rill adds, “Saturday’s race was our end goal since summer, and we had a good day. Shoutout to our sophomores who stepped up! We now have two sophomores, Nate Mckillop and Dean O’Bryan, who are both in the top five best sophomores in Fenwick history — and they are a lot of the reason we took home the title Saturday.

Sophomore Nate McKillop (Elmhurst) placed 20th at the boys Class 2A state meet to earn All-State honors.

“I am so proud of all of my boys,” the All-State junior continues. “We have worked so hard since track last year for this goal, and all those miles payed off. I loved seeing all of my teammates buy into the sport and buy into this goal that we made back at camp in the summer: to be one of being one of the best teams in the state. And from this goal we turned into the best team in the state and the best cross-country team in Fenwick history.”

“This state championship is extra special for me,” concludes Coach Rill, who was an All-American while at Fenwick, because two of his sons are part of the team. “I’ve been able to coach Brixton [Class of 2014], who now is an assistant coach, and now Grayden. I cannot tell you how proud I am of these guys. We went from being last place at the last state meet to first. We believe this is only the second time that has been done.”

READ THE STORY IN THE OAK PARK WEDNESDAY JOURNAL AND
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO/PHOTO MONTAGE (BELOW) OF THE BOYS’ BIG DAY!

Remembering Inspirational Grandfathers Everywhere

At the Fenwick All Souls’ Day Mass, a junior cross-country runner from Burr Ridge recalled how her late grandpa would utter ‘cheesy’ quotations and loosen hard-to-open pickle jars.

By Student Preacher Natalie Poleszak ’23 (Burr Ridge, IL)

Today, we celebrate All Souls’ Day. Every single year, Catholics gather on November 2nd, commemorating the dead. But why? For Catholics, this day gives us the opportunity to pray for all who have passed away. We pray for our departed brothers and sisters, our loved ones, and our friends. And we also pray for all those still in purgatory, that they may be cleansed of their sins to be finally carried into heaven to rest with God. Personally, I use this day to remember one of the people that I loved the most, my grandfather.

No matter how many people you are surrounded by, I think the most interesting thing is that we can still feel so alone. That’s why it’s so important to know that you will always have a community to fall back on. Even though we may not depend on them for our every need, just knowing that you have someone there to listen, help or even just silently pray for you is a big help. Your community can be your parents, your siblings, your friends, your classmates, even your Starbucks barista … anyone you trust really. But sometimes, all we need is that one person who will help us through the thick and thin. For me, that was my grandpa. Whenever any minor inconveniences would happen in my life, I would go to him. Whether I needed someone to open a jar of pickles, or someone to referee the fighting between my sister and me, grandpa was always there. While he did not always know how to fix the problem, he was always present there for me and willing to listen. I often wished he could fix all my problems as easily as he could open a jar of pickles. Instead, often he simply gave me advice through a cheesy inspirational quote. When I think about his impact today, all those cheesy quotes may have actually helped — that he not only gave me the solution, but made me work for the answer. Through looking back at his words, everything that has happened to me has been a lesson, even if I was blinded by that lesson in the moment. But, sometimes, learning from our experience isn’t always easy. Sometimes, we need to experience deep personal and spiritual reflection before we get the answers we are searching for.

My relationship with God has not always been perfect. To be quite honest, after my grandfather died, I did not have much faith in God. I was angry and sad, struggling to comprehend my own emotions. Not knowing who to turn to or what to do, I instinctively decided to just sit and pray. One day, I decided to bike to church, and then sat in front of the altar. I began to talk to God, telling him my thoughts on and on until about two hours passed. I wish that I could tell you that that specific moment turned me into a new, enlightened person, but it didn’t feel like that at all. I did feel somewhat relieved, but it didn’t change the ever-present fact that my grandpa was gone. The real impact was when I went to Sunday Mass the next day. At Mass, no one sat in the seat I had sat in the day before. Every seat around it was filled with people … and yet, that one singular seat was completely open. No, no one was saving a spot. It wasn’t due to social distancing. Nor was it even a seat for someone’s coat or purse. That seat was just completely empty, almost as if it was beckoning for me. 

At that moment, I realized that God heard my prayers. As weird as it looked, I truly believe that I received a message from God. I came to understand that God would leave that seat open for me whenever I wanted to come in and bask in his grace. God would always save me a spot as his table, like he saved a spot for my grandpa in the kingdom of heaven. 

Later it turned out that the seat was empty because a kid spilled applesauce on it before Mass, but a part of me still believes it was God’s own humorous way of showing his presence, love and care for me, just like my grandpa had.

The Commemoration of All Souls gives us a day to remember all those who have died. It also provides us an annual opportunity to reflect on how they have and still impact our lives. As much as we wish we could, we cannot bring our loved ones back to life, so instead we are gathered here today to do three things:  

Firstly, we are here today to honor them. We honor their words, their beliefs and, most especially, the love they gave us. 

Secondly, we pray for their eternal repose. We pray that through God’s great mercy, they might come to spend eternity with Him, in his kingdom.  

Lastly, in recalling the example of our departed loved ones, we are challenged to take the love we received from them and pass it on to others, through our own words and actions. May we recall those things that had a greatest impact upon us and do those same things for others.

As I take leave of you today, let me make it known:
If you ever need someone to support you or loosen the lid of a jar of pickles …
I am your girl!

Girls’ Tennis Takes 3rd in Illinois Class 1A

Friars win their Sectional and claim first conference title since joining the GCAC eight years ago!

Conference and Sectional titles were impressive achievements for the Fenwick girls’ tennis team, but they saved the best for last by earning a third-place trophy — of 80 teams represented — at the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Class 1A State Finals this past Thursday through Saturday in Buffalo Grove, IL!

Kate Trifilio’s 0-6, 7-5 (10-6) win in the second round of the main draw was key to the team result and earned her a top-24 finish at State!

The Friars tallied 12 match wins, reports Head Coach Gerard Sullivan: two in the main draw from Kate Trifilio in singles (17th place of 64) and five each from doubles pairs Rachel Abraham & Maeve Paris (9th) and Trinity Hardin & Megan Trifilio (sixth). En route to their finish, Fenwick players pulled off three upsets of higher seeds and went 2-1 in three-set matches. “Congratulations to the team and their coaches for a great finish to a record-setting season!” praised Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99.

GGAC & Sectional run

On Saturday, October 9, at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL, the team won its first Girls Catholic Athletic Conference (GCAC) title in the eight years since joining the conference. They won three of their five head-to-head matches against the Ramblers, sealing the title a week after dropping three of five in the teams’ dual meet.

Erin Hayes led the way with a 2 ½-hour semifinal win at #2 singles; Maeve Paris / Rachel Abraham followed, with another semi-final win at #3 doubles, and Megan Trifilio / Trinity Hardin sealed the title in a Rambler demolition in the #1 doubles championship.

Megan Trifilio (left) and Trinity Hardin take 6th in doubles, leading the Friars at the state meet in Buffalo Grove last weekend.

A sweep of the Ramblers was still possible, and Kate Trifilio at #1 singles and Caroline Blair / Kate Dugan at #2 doubles pushed their opponents to tie-breakers in their narrow losses. K. Trifilio placed 4th at #1, Hayes 2nd at #2, M. Trifilio / Hardin 1st at #1 doubles, Blair / Dugan 2nd at #2, and Abraham / Paris 1st at #3.

Paris’s conference title was achieved at the end of her first week of competition after sitting out the first six weeks of the season with a broken arm, Sullivan points out. Her only regular-season match to prepare her was a win with Abraham over OPRF three days before conference. But in 2020, Paris was a #1 doubles player and a sectional third-place finisher who would have gone to state. Unfortunately, the 2020 State tournament was canceled due to COVID concerns.

Maeve Paris (left) and Rachel Abraham took out two seeded teams in the back draw to place 9th in Illinois 1A.

Then, in Lemont, IL, the team won its fifth Sectional title, overwhelming the other eight teams and finishing with 30 points of a possible 36. Erin Hayes won two rounds in singles, knocking out the #5 seed in her second win and losing to the #4 seed in her qualifying match. Kate Trifilio also pulled off an upset of the #2 seed in her semifinal, advancing to the singles championship and finishing as runner-up for the second straight year. Unlike last year, Kate and the other four qualifiers were headed to State, this time with the depth of quality needed for a high team finish.

Both doubles teams advanced to the title match and faced each other in a Fenwick vs. Fenwick doubles final. Rachel Abraham / Maeve Paris were seeded 6th and took out two seeds, including the #2 seeded Nazareth team on their way to the final. Megan Trifilio / Trinity Hardin played up to their #1 seed, giving up no more than two games in any set in their march to the title.

The Friars were one of 16 sectional champion teams at the State tournament but clearly had momentum going in that put them near the top.

Read the Wednesday Journal article.

THE FENWICK GIRLS’ GOLF TEAM HAD A HISTORICAL SEASON THIS FALL, TOO!

UPDATE: Fenwick Alumni Who Teach

Students-turned-teachers help to advance the Friars’ mission.

By Mark Vruno

Why is it that such a surprisingly high number of former students return to Fenwick to teach future alumni?

Presently, there are approximately 140 teachers, administrators and staff members at Fenwick High School, and 32 of them have walked the hallowed halls in Oak Park as students. Over the course of the school’s nine decades in existence, many more former pupils have returned to work and serve. “People come back to Fenwick because of the impact the school had on their lives,” believes Social Studies/History Department Chair Alex Holmberg ’05. “Whether that impact was inside or outside the classrooms, Fenwick leaves a powerful impression on everyone,” says Mr. Holmberg, who doubles as the school’s clubs/activities director.

Raymond Moland ’96

“The opportunity to shape how future students approach the rest of their lives is incredibly powerful,” he notes, “and that potential draws so many people back into the building. Thinking about that opportunity to help prepare and motivate future Friars is what brought me back to Fenwick, and that thought is what motivates me to continue to help the school in whatever way I can.”

Principal Peter Groom, who has taught Friars since the 1980s, reports that many of the Fenwick graduates he has hired, he had in the classroom. “We get to know our students during their time here,” Mr. Groom explains. “We get to know their intelligence, their values, their passion and their work ethic. Typically, our graduates are also committed to our mission. When we hire people who are committed to our mission, we hire people who want to remain a part of our community for a long time. One of the keys to building a mission-based school is to have teachers who are committed and who demonstrate the aforementioned values.”

Roger Finnell ’59, a Fenwick mathematics instructor for nearly six decades, concurs with fellow alumnus Holmberg:  “Many alumni teach here because they remember their experience at Fenwick as being something special and want to contribute towards continuing the traditions here,” reflects Mr. Finnell, who is Math Department Co-Chair.

Roger Finnell in 1968.

“I knew I wanted to teach math when I started college,” shares Finnell, who also is the man behind the scenes of Blackfriars Guild stage productions. “In my senior year at Loyola, after I finished student teaching at Lane Tech in Chicago, I heard about an opening at St. Ignatius, so I made an appointment for an interview. But then I thought I might as well also inquire at Fenwick. I did my Fenwick interview and was offered a position here, so, seeing this as a great opportunity, I quickly cancelled my St. Ignatius interview and the rest is history!”

Representing the Classes of 1959 to 2012

Holmberg and math/computer science teacher Kevin Roche ’05 are two of thousands of Friars taught by Mr. Finnell over the past 58 years. “I think that there are a large amount of Friars returning because they had a great experience at the school, believe in what the school does, and want to be a part of ‘steering the ship’ for future generations,” chimes in Mr. Roche, who also coaches cross country. “We have Friars in different aspects of the school (operations, administration, faculty and development) who all had different experiences here yet all want to give back. I believe that this influx of alumni teachers is also a sign of our generation: Millennials have a great desire to find meaning and purpose in their work. That is their highest motivator and education is a career that offers immense purpose and validation for the work through strong relationships.”

Grace Lilek David ’08

Learning Resource Coordinator Grace Lilek David ’08, who is in her sixth year of teaching at Fenwick, captures the sentiment of many of her colleagues who also are alumni: “I was inspired to pursue a career in education based on my experiences at Fenwick,” says Mrs. David. “I think experience is the first reason so many of us have come back to Fenwick to teach. You will not meet two Fenwick graduates who had the exact same experience. You can be an athlete or a thespian or participate in academic competitions, and always find your niche. You can also take on all three of those roles and thrive. It is an honor to come back to Fenwick as a teacher and share these experiences with our students.

“Faith is another reason we come back,” Lilek surmises. “It is very easy to feel more connected to God at Fenwick. When I consider the fact that the Dominican Order was founded over 800 years ago and couple it with the fact that Fenwick is the only high school in the United States run by the Dominican Friars, I am compelled to keep the tradition alive and the school thriving. And even though not every Fenwick student is Catholic, there is a respect for the faith that built this school. There is also a type of faith that goes along with calling yourself a Fenwick Friar.

“Finally, the greater Fenwick Family, is another reason we come back, David concludes. “Whether you connect with one teacher/staff member/counselor or several, or one friend or several, someone in this building always has your back. And then, when you come back to Fenwick and nervously enter the building for an interview, you are greeted with a smile from Mrs. Tartaglia, who remembers you from the time you were a student, and you know you are home. I simply do not think you can find that anywhere else.”

Here is a breakdown of who the alumni are and what they teach/do:

Continue reading “UPDATE: Fenwick Alumni Who Teach”

Neighbors and Partners

Alliance between SCSL and Fenwick starts with rebuilt gym and renovated tutoring center.

On October 7, 2021, the newly renovated Maguire Hall Gymnasium and the Fenwick Center for Educational Excellence (tutoring facility) were officially dedicated and blessed at St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy Catholic Grade School in Oak Park, IL — just east of Fenwick High School and near Chicago’s west-side Austin neighborhood!

The Fenwick Center for Educational Excellence at SCSL School serves as a tutoring center where Friar students help grade-schoolers.

READ MORE IN THE OAK PARK WEDNESDAY JOURNAL

SCSL Principal Mrs. Sharon Leamy addresses the 100 or so attendees at the ceremony.
Mr. Mike Doody shared the story of a five-year journey and vision.